By Elizabeth Pantley
When your child is worried about something it’s likely that his self-talk is very negative and he focuses on possible disasters: What if I hate my new teacher? What if mummy forgets to pick me up from camp? What if I get hurt and no one is here to help me? What if something bad happens to Daddy when he is away?
A stressed-out child can rehearse these thoughts in his mind until he is overcome with fear and worry.
Negative self-talk begins on its own and easily escalates, causing anxiety to increase. It takes understanding, a plan and practice for a child to change his self-talk to more positive ideas.
Worry is the waste of a good imagination
The first step to help your child relax is to help him understand that just because he thinks something doesn’t make it real. To teach this idea, wait for a time when your child is relaxed and at home. Have a conversation on the topic. Use an example to show how thoughts are separate from reality. For example, thinking about a cow doesn’t make one appear in the kitchen. Thinking about flying doesn’t cause you to take off in mid-air. Then explain that this also applies to fears such as thinking that no one will arrive at pick-up time, or that something bad will happen at school.
Explain that your child has the ability to change the way she thinks.
Help her to see that she can control her negative thoughts by acknowledging them when they pop up and making a conscious effort to change the direction of thought.
Don’t focus on problems, look for solutions
As human beings we often focus on problems and review them, rehearse them, and dissect them in our minds. Children do this, too. Teach your child that life will always have problems, but that there are solutions – and that’s where your thinking should focus.